Tuesday’s mayoral election will help decide future of transit in Seattle for years to come, and that decision will be made by those voters who bother to return their ballots. Not very many people have sent in their ballots, and that’s not a good sign for transit advocates.

King County Elections has predicted turnout for this election will be 35%, but even that may be optimistic. So far, only 15% of voters have sent in their ballots. That’s not good for transit.

Early voters are usually older, many of them over age 65. That age group is statistically the least likely to support improving public transit, from saving Metro bus service to expanding rail in Seattle and our region. They are the most likely to be influenced by the Seattle Times’ attack on sustainable, dense, transit-friendly policies as being some kind of “war on cars.” If turnout remains this low, then it will be those voters who decide which two candidates face off against each other in November. And the candidates they choose might not be good for transit in Seattle.

We can’t let that happen. We need pro-transit voters to turn in their ballots now – and then make sure their family and friends vote too. Seattle Transit Blog has endorsed Mike McGinn for mayor because of his strong pro-transit, pro-density record. You can find our complete 2013 primary endorsements here for other important races, too.

Seattle residents are strongly in favor of transit. We shouldn’t let our elections be decided by the small minority that is anti-transit. Please vote.

82 Replies to “Don’t Let Anti-Transit Voters Decide the Election”

    1. A lot of more suburban city residents, especially those from older generations, have never known anything else – and they fear us building a city with fewer cars. They also vote EVERY TIME. Call your friends and make sure they’re voting. :)

      1. A clear marker is anyone who refers to the transit system as “the mayor’s choo choos”.

        They seem to think public transit is some kind of toy instead of the vital link it is for a lot of us.

      2. Most urbanists aren’t even closeted about their ageism and racism. They have learned to use code.

      3. @John Just to be clear, I am not aiming at a particular age group with my comments. The people in this town who hate transit though do seem to think the trains are toys for politicians. I always see them referring to them as “choo choos” and I think that goes across age groups actually.

        There are a number of people across age groups that support transit as well (despite the average numbers skewing younger), so I agree its best not to identify by a particular age and just talk about a different sub group “those who just want to stay in their cars and are resistant to change”. Its easy to visualize that group as older, but there are quite a lot of people even under the age of 40 that fit right in that boat.

      4. You’re right about the age thing, Ben, but problem is that at your age you don’t yet have enough experience to differentiate between people 68 and those whippersnappers who are only 65 but think they know everything!

        Problem is 65 years old just missed the tail end of the last good years of public transit in America. The Electroliner folded in 1963. So they’re just too young to remember anything but rusty tracks being paved over, and those great new freeways.

        I usually hold off voting ’til Election Day just to I don’t miss out on any scandals to influence my vote. Darn New York for getting both Elliot Spitzer and Anthony Wiener. Just for that, my ballot’s going into the box in front of the Ballard library tomorrow.


      5. You guys speak with forked tongue.

        One minute you’re saying transit is for old people who can no longer drive and who will be stranded. Next you say that those same people are against transit.

        Once again seems like you pull arguments out of your hat with no definition of terms or studies to back it up just to make a poorly argued point.

      6. The Seattle Transit Blog comments are often given to disparaging groups of people. Old people, “suburban city dwellers” (whatever that means), Bellevueites…all are fair game here.

      7. I didn’t disparage anyone. I just noted that older generations are less likely to vote for transit. If that’s somehow cruel to older people, then go organize them and change it.

      8. age discrimination

        Words have meaning, John, and you don’t get to unilaterally change those meanings for your amusement. If the post concluded with a call to prevent the elderly from voting, you’d have a point.

        Please point to and explain what in this post (or Ben’s comment or any other comment) constitutes support for “discrimination” or withdraw this scurrilous accusation. Note that an empirically uncontroversial observation about demographics and voting behavior does not in any way constitute “discrimination”, any more than “African-Americans usually vote Democratic” or “Evangelical Christians skew Republican” constitutes discrimination against African-Americans or Evangelical Christians.

      9. @djw

        Ben said

        …older generations are less likely to vote for transit.

        Please provide one study demonstrating this to be true.

  1. Does anyone know what percentage of voters normally turn in their ballots in the last couple days of the election? In other words, is this low early turnout normal?

      1. Too many locals doing the usual summer stuff—-camping, hiking, biking. Many of them can’t help their indifference when the weather is this good when it rarely happens.

  2. I think any senior citizen who votes against transit is voting for dependency. No bigotry intended, but many seniors logically get to a point where they can’t drive anymore… right?

    1. Yeah, but most in that category continue to drive anyway, and some eventually kill themselves or others while doing so.

  3. “Seattle residents are strongly in favor of transit. ”

    Then why did the anti-tunnel crowd lose so badly in the voting booth?

    1. I think a lot of people also thought that tunnel would give the waterfront back to downtown. Not just leave it a major highway.

      Also, a number of folks I have run into recently don’t see it as an either-or proposition. They want roads AND rail.

      1. “waterfront back to downtown. Not just leave it a major highway.”

        They voted by a huge majority for the tunnel not expecting a highway?

      2. There are lots of reasons people voted for the tunnel. A lot of people think a freeway in that location is a necessity. I think that the state misled people about tolling revenue projections, downtown traffic impacts, and the ultimate form of the Alaskan Way surface road, and I think more people would have voted against the tunnel knowing the truth about these things… but that’s certainly hard to prove. But in the end, voting for the tunnel was a vote to move forward on a specific project, and I think a lot of people thought the tunnel was inevitable and that delaying and obstructing it wasn’t actually going to result in anything better, just the same thing more slowly.

      3. Some of us would have also voted against it had we known that support for funding public transportation, which was part of the sell for voting for the new viaduct, would be very limited.

        Some of us voted for it to get a new structure that would have some chance of surviving an earthquake versus one that would definitely collapse and kill a lot of people.

      4. And of course, a lot of people didn’t realize that voting for it meant the viaduct would stay up for years longer, whereas if we didn’t build the tunnel, any other option removed the unsafe viaduct immediately.

    2. How did the “anti-tunnel crowd lose so badly”? First, there was a (non-binding) referendum. Very few people supported the tunnel (a lot less than half). Then, we got to pick a mayor. First we kicked out the old mayor (the one supported that the tunnel). Then we elected the guy who fought most against the tunnel. So, basically, even if accepted your premise (that being pro-tunnel is the same as being anti-transit) I don’t agree with your electoral assessment. As I see it, people have voted against the tunnel in three elections, in three different ways. At the same time, I can’t ever remember them voting for the tunnel.

      1. “Then we elected the guy who fought most against the tunnel”

        Well right up to when polls showed him losing, then he flip flopped.

        “Very few people supported the tunnel (a lot less than half”

        The rest supported a rebuild of the viaduct. Transit only? Got less than 25%

      2. “I can’t ever remember them voting for the tunnel.”

        Highways always won, whether tunnel or viaduct. Transit never polled above 25%.

      3. McGinn never flip-flopped. He said he wouldn’t lie down in front of the thing. That is completely different. Basically, the old mayor pushed it through far enough (without public support) that it was really too late to do anything practical to stop it. He new it, and the city council new it. But guess what? It cost him the support of The Stranger and his job.

        There never was a “transit only” listing for the viaduct replacement. There was a “surface option” which lots of people assumed meant “just tear down the thing”. So it is no surprise that it got less than 25%, because people assumed that it meant gridlock. Furthermore, as you correctly pointed out, the tunnel did not win. How can you say (with a straight face) that people “voted for the tunnel” when it not only didn’t gain a majority, but failed to even win a plurality? Geesh! Talk about spin. Even the Seattle Times called it a failure for the tunnel.

        Oh, and speaking of elections, maybe you were out of town for a few election cycles. This city voted 3 times for a monorail. A monorail! A system so flawed folks on this blog (that love transit so much they dedicate a blog to it) thought it was stupid. But Seattle loves transit, and the idea of a system that connected Ballard to West Seattle seemed cool.

        Then there is the Sound Transit votes. If I’m not mistaken, every one has passed in Seattle. Even the first one, which failed area wide (because the suburbs failed to pass it). Then there was the “roads and transit” initiative. The first one failed, even though it was mostly roads and had very little transit. The ratio was reversed and it passed.

        There is overwhelming support for transit in this town. Even the folks that Ben thinks will decide the election support more funding for transit. What he is scared of is that someone who talks a good game about transit will get elected. Even more likely is a guy who opposes density getting elected.

      4. “McGinn never flip-flopped.”

        Keep splitting those hairs. When he’s fired, he can change his position again.

      5. Ahhh, nice job. Well done. It took me a while, but now I’ve figured it out. You are a troll. Classic case of ever changing argument, followed by nitpicking on the counter arguments. Your basic premise was wrong. I disproved it by citing several counter examples. I was awaiting further arguments containing something, anything, to support your idea. Nope. Just a reiteration of the first, obviously flawed premise.

        Sorry, everyone. I shouldn’t feed the troll. My bad.

      6. “Sorry, everyone. I shouldn’t feed the troll”

        Conceding the election and argument already ? Not a troll, but not living in your bubble everyday.

      7. That’s similar to how we voted FOR the monorail many times until the one time we voted AGAINST the monorail. But, if the monorail had continued in 2007, we’d be into our second line by now. And no one would be ranting about the finances.

      8. ” the tunnel did not win.”

        Ref. 1 win by 20 points. When given a clear choice between the tunnel and McGinn’s chaos, Seattle voters wisely chose the tunnel. By TWENTY points.

      9. “Then why did the anti-tunnel crowd lose so badly in the voting booth?”

        Here’s a theory – maybe people want a tunnel because they are not going to pay for it. Our children and grandchildren will.

        Or perhaps children and grandchildren won’t. With heavier taxes to service massive highway debt, they’ll move to Portland. The city will lose its tax base, then its ability to finance more debt, then eventually become Detroit. Pensioners will get screwed. The whole motorist ponzi scheme will collapse.

      10. And we know a lot of people voted to approve the referendum because they thought approving it meant stopping the tunnel. Referenda and recall votes are confusing to many voters.

  4. The Times endorsed Ed Murray. Peter Steinbrueck is not the favorite person around here, but he’s not anti-transit. There are no anti-transit candidates that can possibly make it through the primary.

    1. Peter Steinbrueck would be very VERY bad for the kind of fast, frequent, reliable transit this blog and most of it’s readers support.

      1. Voters of Seattle want a balanced approach. Steinbrueck will bring that. Either Murray or Steinbrueck, McGinn is toast.

      2. Steinbrueck is far from “balanced.”

        He has promised every neighborhood in the city that it can remain in amber exactly as it is today, and that the growth will go to some other neighborhood. His solution for growth is 4 parts magic and one part 8-story towers along major arterials. His solution for transit is RapidRide. Plenty of people see the problems with all of that.

    2. Peter Steinbrueck is against building transit within the city that is any more useful than what we have now.

      He sees light rail as a solution only for “regional” (i.e., suburban) corridors, keeping us stuck with buses only in the city.

      He talks a big game about favoring BRT, but has given no indication that he supports the major capital investments that would be needed to make BRT significantly more effective than RapidRide, which is a slightly refined regular bus.

      By any reasonable definition of the term, Steinbrueck is anti-transit, no matter how much gauzy spin he releases saying otherwise.

  5. I fully expect Peter to make it through the primary. The only question is “who will he face in the general.”

    Is that what I want? No. But McGonn has left the door wide open for anyone who wants to challenge him.

  6. Is there anything about Mike McGinn that would appeal to most anti-transit voters that is unrelated to transit? If he can sell Seattle on something else, he could win on that basis and bring his transit along for the ride.

    1. No, because his entire agenda in office has been hostile to most anti-transit voters, who are also anti-growth, anti-urban, and anti-youth. That is a good thing as far as I, and most readers of this blog, are concerned.

    2. God yes. He doubled the size of the families and education levy – helping fund our school programs when the legislature wouldn’t. He kept the city from cutting social services during the recession. He got the libraries back open on Sundays. Lots more!

  7. “Seattle residents are strongly in favor of transit. ”

    Then why is the most pro transit candidate, endorsed by seattle’s transit community, barely polling above 20%? You might want to learn what ‘strongly’ means.

      1. Troll for pointing out Seattle’s most pro transit mayor ever is polling at 22%?


    1. “strongly pro-transit” simply means that nearly every time Seattle voters are asked to spend money on transit, more than 50% of them vote yes.

      1. ““strongly pro-transit” simply means that nearly every time Seattle voters are asked to spend money on transit, more than 50% of them vote yes.”

        Except when they don’t. See Prop 1, 2010, Ref. 1

        But if voting for anyone other than McGinn makes you “anti-transit” [Don’t Let Anti-Transit Voters Decide the Election], how come he’s only pulling 22%?

        Keep shifting the goal posts.

    2. Seattle is a growing city with a busy downtown core, and transit (as well as transit support) tends to come along with these kinds of cities. Seattle residents consistently show support for transit at the ballots. For some reason, people don’t like paying $20+ dollars per day to park at their workplace in downtown. This trend is also observable in Tacoma (but not NE Tacoma).

      Hence, why our stupid senate has our transit growth on ransom for billions of dollars (in highways).

    3. The corporate media didn’t spend four years trashing transit. They spent four years trashing Mike McGinn. (But yeah, they trashed pedestrian safety improvements, inexpensive bicycle infrastructure, and criticisms of the tunnel, so they didn’t spend *all* their time trashing Mike.)

      Annoy the consultants who troll blogs right before elections. Re-elect McGinn.

      1. What corporate media are you talking about? From what I read, it was pretty balanced. He said he wouldn’t get in the way of the tunnel, then immediately after getting into office, he changed his mind and fought it. He fought the police reforms that were necessary to bring trust back to Seattle’s police force. And, the local news also highlighted the work he did for Seattle’s youth, parks, and transit.

      2. Cinesea, between the “wouldn’t get in the way of” and “fought it” you had a legislative session in which they put the cost overruns on Seattle. He didn’t just change his mind, the legislature went after us and we tried to defend ourselves.

    4. It isn’t as if anyone is running away with a clear majority. The 4 main candidates have split the voters pretty evenly between them with a large “undecided” contingent.

      Last I checked McGinn was polling better than anyone except Murray, not exactly the worst place to be.

      1. And if you look at the crosstabs on that poll, it’s likely Murray is nowhere near where it claims he is.

  8. The low turnout could mean that folks are pretty happy with things as they are. People who are pretty happy with the status quo don’t usually vote to get rid of the incumbent. Then again, a lot of them just don’t vote. Rather than look at percentages, I would like to see district by district numbers. Unless there is something really weird, my guess is that this election will go just as expected: McGinn versus Murray.

    1. Fair enough. I think the mayoral election is a lot more about the latter, rather than the former. I happen to believe the opposite. As I see it, more density means more affordable housing. The negatives are small price to pay for those who struggle to make rent.

      1. +1

        As much as a small town feel is nice to have around, low density means forcing people who do not have quite high paying jobs to leave the city and be stuck on the freeway for hours in a car.

        If you care about reducing congestion or pollution, you have to at least include increased density on the list of solutions to consider. When you take into account how long it takes to build big transit projects vs how long it takes to build new apartment buildings, increased density seems like one of the better places to start to reduce the number of people who need to be on the road by bringing more people closer to where their jobs are.

      2. “negatives are small price to pay for those who struggle to make rent.”

        That’s what they tell the old folk in beijing’s hutongs and shanghai’s french quarter before the communist party urbanists bulldozed their 200 year old homes.

      3. Tom,
        What happened in Beijing or Shanghai is not what we are talking about in Seattle. What we’re talking about is zoning slightly more land for multifamily and slightly higher height limits for multifamily and commercial zones. Not exactly the same thing as the government wholesale bulldozing most of the central part of the city then handing the land over to their cronies.

    2. You can’t have cost-effective transit without at least moderate density. And the cost-effectiveness gets better the higher density gets.

      The only cost-effective transit serving areas without density is commuter transit to areas with density.

      The only all-day transit in the Seattle area that covers its costs at the farebox is a handful of routes connecting the three densest neighborhoods in Seattle: Uptown/Belltown, downtown, and Capitol Hill.

      The only commuter transit in the Seattle area that covers its costs at the farebox is a few shorter express bus routes that feed people to downtown.

      1. Life would sure suck if a bus had to make a profit at the farebox in order to run. That said, if the A-line ran peak only every 30 minutes, it would definitely make a profit (all those passengers just wouldn’t be able to breathe. Like I said, life would suck.). So I think that many common destinations spread out evenly over several miles can also work similarly to density. The caveat here is that the route would have to be longer, which makes running the bus more expensive.

      2. I guess I’ve never bought that argument…that you have to have both origin and destination density!

        That is, you can have TOD — density at the nodes of some of the stations…but then the further extent of the lines can have very light density. Park and ride type things.

        So, I drive to my train. I get on. It takes me to a work, shop or fun center. Then I come home with my purchases, get in my car and drive back. This is a model that essentially makes LINK profitable (SeaTac and sports arena trips).

      3. I’m not saying every bus has to be profitable at the farebox; I’m using farebox-profitable routes as examples of the most cost-effective routes. My point is that suburb-suburb mass transit of the type Bailo envisions doesn’t work because it has extremely high cost per rider.

      4. If transportation had to turn a profit, there would be no suburbs. They only exist because of subsidies.

      5. @John:

        Unless there’s a massive change to the way we pay for P&R based commuter transit, though, it will never come close to being cost effective: the capital investments in buses are extremely poorly utilized, the marginal costs of extending service otside the peak are high, and the benefits small,.and the P&R itself is even more expensive than the buses. The 212 more or less breaks even because there it’s short enough that buses can actually run multiple times per peak period, and because it isn’t expected to pay for its fair share of the Eastgate P&R; and it’s almost certainly the most cost effective of the commuter buses. It’s largely downhill, and pretty steeply so at that, from there.

      6. @Ben

        “If transportation had to turn a profit, there would be no suburbs. They only exist because of subsidies.”

        That…and because people like big homes and yards their kids can play in, and cul de sacs that are free from speeding cars, and lots of parks. That’s the only reason they exist. Oh, yeah and reduced crime….good schools……..easy of auto use………malls with good shops…….media rooms…………………….

      7. Unless there’s a massive change to the way we pay for P&R based commuter transit, though, it will never come close to being cost effective

        Exactly. the only thing that could be more stupid is to spend billions on light rail to serve a string of P&R lots… oh, wait; never mind :-(

  9. Anybody who follows elections in America knows that low turnouts almost always result in more conservative electorates. That’s why ST2 passed with flying colors in 2008 (a high turnout year) and we want ST3 in 2016 and not some random odd year. There’s nothing controversial about what Ben is saying here.

    Every transit advocate here has friends who haven’t voted. Time to be a pest!

    Also – just ignore the trolls. They will go away.

    1. As an aside, I would absolutely support a Seattle election reform that would change the Council and Mayoral election cycles to even years instead of odd years. Sure – having to share an Election Day with presidential elections would draw attention away from city issues, but it would dilute the influence of the cranks.

      1. Odd year municipal elections are required by state law. You’ll get that changed the same session you get the rural forces who run the Legislature to let the cities tax themselves to build transit, and a progressive income tax for the entire state.

  10. Ben, the other thing that many seniors have in common is living on a fixed income. Since public transit fares are set so low as to not recover cost of operation, why should taxes be used to subsidize public transit? Why should someone on a fixed income, that does not use public transit often pay to subsidize your life style?

    1. That’s an argument for exempting low-fixed-income seniors from taxes, not eliminating transit subsidies. You can just as easily write…

      Why should someone on a fixed income, that does not use libraries often, pay to subsidize library users?

      Why should someone on a fixed income, who cannot afford a car and walks to the neighborhood store, pay to subsidize roads for drivers?

      Why should someone on a fixed income, whose kids are long graduated, pay to subsidize public schools?

      Either lower-income people should pay taxes, or they shouldn’t. That’s a debate we should have. But if they do pay taxes, their taxes should support the same programs as everyone else’s taxes.

    2. Fixed income (by which of course wwhat they really mean is an income that goes up with inflation, and includes a fair amount of highly subsidized healthcare).

  11. I see McGinn supporters are out in full force…can’t wait for him to ride back to NY.

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